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How a Lawsuit Could Turn Canada's First Nations' Relationship With Government Upside Down

After decades of abuse and neglect by the government, justice may be on the way for the Grassy Narrows community.

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How will this court ruling affect people on the front lines in Grassy Narrows? “We’re still going to be here,” says Swain, insisting the blockade will persist even after the ruling. “I’m still going to stand up for my children,” she says. “I’m teaching them, too, so that after I go they can use their voice.” What does she think about the court ruling? “It’s not a victory yet,” says Swain, explaining it’s a step forward, but there’s still a lot more work to do.

As the logging blockade enters its 10th year, Grassy Narrows First Nation is continuing to assert its sovereignty. This fall, the activists started issuing a toll on the blockaded logging road—many Americans visit the Lake of the Woods area, a popular tourist camping destination, driving past the log cabins and wig-wams at the blockade. When it comes to plans for the future, Swain isn’t short of them. She suggests that instead of the government issuing licences to campers on their lands, Grassy Narrows could set up their own camps. She also hopes they could someday take over jurisdiction from the Ministry of Natural Resources, regulating poaching and other activities on their land to create their own jobs. She says change is slow, but she sees it happening. “We’re trying to take back everything that was taken from us.”


Carmelle Wolfson is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker in Toronto.

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